A few years ago GoTenna introduced a gizmo that turned two (or more) cell phones into off network texting tools. They worked pretty well, but they had a major shortcoming. You can’t text and drive. At least that was the first thing we noticed. We were hoping to find a workaround for handheld radios while cruising around in remote areas. We wanted a walkie talkie/comms tool… that didn’t require: 1) a license, 2) a CB antenna, and 3) didn’t broadcast on FRS.
Unbeknownst to us… or anyone we asked Montana-based Beartooth was working on a product just for us. Or more accurately consumers, like us, who wanted to actually talk to each other through their mobile phone… when there is no network.
From our first impressions the product works just like our GoTenna’s… but better.
Here’s Beartooth’s intro video:
Pretty cool right? A pocket sized transceiver that lets you text and talk when the network is down, or non existent. Like many pieces of tech these days, you just have to download an App and pair it to your mobile device via Bluetooth. Once you convince a buddy to buy one as well (they come in pairs so you might want to go Dutch)… you’re up and running.
Now, just to clarify, this isn’t going to create a talk on the phone-style experience. Rather it will work like a handheld radio or one of those push to talk cell phones that were popular about a decade ago. You touch a “button” on your phone’s screen and send a message. You can choose whether you want to talk to just one Beartooth carrying pal… or broadcast to the entire group.
The Specs & Pricing…
For a limited time you can pick up a pair of devices for under $250 but that will jump to $400 once the introductory price period ends. Buy more and you’ll get a slightly bigger intro discount.
|App Compatibility||Android and iOS|
|Range (Line of Sight)||10 Miles|
|Range (Non Line of Sight)||5 Miles|
How they work
Those with a phone, the app, and a Beartooth receive texting/group texting, one to one voice, and group voice. The range is 5-10 miles, expect that to be a little less if you’re in a car or structure. Fortunately the devices set up a mesh network that allows you to extend the range by passing communications from one device to the next. Some reports estimate the average range to be ~2 miles. That means with four devices you can easily reach communicate out to four or so miles as long as there are other devices spaced out between you and the distant recipient.
Like the GoTenna app, Beartooth users have access to a location sharing feature. However, you will need to download the map(s) for offline use before you lose service. One feature we really like is that multiple users can share their location on a map… kind of like Find my Friends.
Are they worth the price?
Time will tell. In two years we have not used our GoTenna’s as much as expected. However, if they had voice communication that might be a different story. We’d love to be able to chat on the trail especially while driving (safely).
Another hurdle is overlapping capabilities in other devices. Phones have GPS. GoTenna and satellite tracking devices have text like features. In fact, we regularly carry a Garmin InReach everywhere we go so we can text from anywhere and navigate.
However, if the devices work well and catch on they could really be a game changer. The group text/talk features paired with the mapping capabilities would be solid assets in the backcountry. Think about the utility of tracking/texting/talking while mountain biking, skiing, travelling abroad, or hunting. And it’ll even charge your phone. We’d happily pay $400 per pair.
Can you accomplish on trail/back country communications cheaper? Sure. Are their tools with more range? Absolutely. But Beartooth isn’t really trying to compete with those $30 FRS/GMRS radios, HAM enthusiasts, or satphones. They’re creating a way to improve the utility of your phone in the backcountry. Communicate effectively without the need for a licence. And, have a degree of privacy not offered by other radio communication tools. To us that’s definitely worth the price… especially at the intro price.